Bombello … trying word-things out on Sicily


Now a slow pendulum breathes an intuitive pulse into the days. Sun up; gathering wood  generates warmth to ward off the early chill. Acquired appetite for breakfast directs me to the outdoor kitchen. Eggs, tomatoes, wild asparagus and coffee. Ecstasy as my blood sugars rise. Light in metallic notes from spoons, and all the reflective surfaces…. little glints that fuse into a chorus to marry with the birdsong and the growing heat that pulls fresh aromas from damp soil.

Sequestered between the roots of an ancient olive tree I have called a truce on my own action and watch ants meet and greet from their lines. The hours pass. Oranges summon me to satisfy thirst. My limbs transfer to the trees to gather armful after armful as though another distant part of me initiated movement. Then from a new roof top vista I am absorbed into the landscape. Into the shapes of trees across the valley. Their individuality and their tidy rows. Colour and light. Form and shadow. Sound and silence. I stay until the heat is too much and hunger is saying it is noon. I prepare lunch. It takes all day to live, eat, wash, walk and gather, rest and play.

The shadows are turning and lengthening as the sun departs, setting a golden flame in the branches of the almond trees. Now it is time to use the last of the fading light to collect the morning’s wood harvest and light the wood burner. Candles light the kitchen for supper and my diary entry. The sun passes his lantern to the moon who conceals it behind the hill. In the sky above it, the light intensifies with maddening slowness until a tight curl of silver breaks over the rim. The suspense is broken. I watch her rise until the lower curve of the full moon’s circumference is poised upon crest of the hillside and from there she beams, cool upon my face to roll us into the night. I had been riveted to the spot for nearly 2 hours and am suddenly perished.

Even in Sicily the temperature has dropped but the wood burner has warmed my bedroom. At last I relinquish my outdoor theatre and exchange my rugs for a duvet and hot water bottle. Here in the traditional older buildings there is more air circulating. My bed is warm and dry. A cool draught flutters like a baroque flute, whispering arabesques around my head. I drift in the pre-sleep moments…. partially conscious and out-of-body, seeing myself from the willow ceiling rushes and unable to distinguish where my limbs join…. is my head attached? which way round am I? I must paint this sensory trance-dismemberment tomorrow. I am omni present; expanded into a trillion particles of melody that pirouette through the valley and around my room.
Suddenly my mass has condensed and I thud back into the bed with a shock of solidity. I wake and shrink back to myself and the chill of being enclosed, alone in a room and a huge area of land. I crave the safety of being outside and not penned within four walls. If anyone intrudes now I will not be able to get out. They will know I am here by the candle light in the windows. My heart thumps as I get up. I close all the shutters so that it is as black as a Welsh coal mine. A velvet-dark lullaby. Sleep descends and closes me down for the night.

out-of-body in Bombello

out-of-body in Bombello

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The Piano. A Practice in Expression.

The love-call from my piano intoxicates me. A thousand pound mass of mahogany and steel. A nucleus that anchors my home and coaxes me back from disintegration.
Her voice lives by the skin, muscle and bone of 88 hammers, the tautness of strings and a wafer of sound board that has been singled out from queues of Sitka spruce. A diaphragm that resonates, amplifies and bestows upon me the fragrance of infinity. Yet with the rigour of a virtuoso she rewards me only when I give everything of myself.
Only when I tear open emotion, physicality and intelligence.

She does not suffer fools gladly. On days when I come to her, idle, the disapproval crawls back to me from her underbelly.

What if she were to loosen my shackles?


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Would you like to help me win a cycling travel voucher?

Hi everyone. If you are a facebook user, you could help me to win a big skedaddle prize with my China cartoons. . . . here are some reminders!
Please go to their facebook page, ( search for “Saddle Skedaddle ” ) scroll through until you see ‘competition entries’ and then look for my cartoons. Liking and sharing them will help to boost my numbers!
I know I know, it is rather a game, but for £1000 worth of travel, I am up for playing and my entry at least is unusual, wouldn’t you say?

I would probably have to promise to do more paintings, which would be no hardship! Suggestions for where to go if I am the lucky winner?

Thanking you in advance, Jenny

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The Intimacy of Charcoal.

For the last few weeks I have returned to working in charcoal in pursuit of understanding light.

Somehow, in the process, I also managed to loosen my grip on ‘achieving’ a nice end result….. and hey presto, it all got a bit easier.

It is such a tender way to work, building up a soft grey fog …. alternating stick and cloth, stroking in and sweeping off… fingers, too. Then when there is an even, dense base, bringing light by rubbing out. Truly magical and so forgiving; you can make a mess, dissolve back into the fog and start again.

Form begins to suggest itself and it is more a matter of following it in than making the shapes happen.

The three are still life, strong contrasts ( interior ) and diffuse light.




The last was from the imagination. The second a copy of a photo and the first ( today’s study ) was from the collection of objects on the studio table.
Incidentally, we get served the best coffee in town, often in one of the exquisite bone china cups, now serving as centre piece in the top picture.
Annemarie who guides us through the tough struggles and out into laughter, provides a Friday oasis. It has been a source of renewal, nourishment and inspiration for well over 18 years.

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Husaby Kirk and Opus 110

Husaby Kirk and Opus 110

Compared to the dainty little beach cafe piano in Denmark, the Yamaha upright in the hallowed space of Husaby had something very different to say.

It had the kind of dry, fiery bass to awaken the dead and stir them within their granite tombs.

Hans and Elenor had taken me to one of their favourite hilltops and so to the church where all the Kings of Sweden had been sanctified.

There was a quality of historic, austere silence in the heavy stonework. It met the vibrancy of Beethoven’s music with a neutral impassivity. The unyielding surfaces could not absorb the sound and so the music seemed to hang in the airy cool spaces to cascade over us.
The visitors stopped milling around and either sat or stood, finding themselves becalmed as they listened.
Hans, Elenor, Richard and his friend were also motionless in their close little family group beside the piano.
Time itself became an illusion, and as I played it was as though nothing else existed but separate ribbons of notes loosely, seamlessly interlacing with one another to dissolve again and again.
The stillness seemed to expand not only upwards into the ribbed vaults and bosses above us but beyond into another dimension altogether.
Every note, every phrase, pause, cadence had its own precise sunlit shaft upon which to hover and speak in perfect unhurried acquiescence, suspended moment upon moment before evaporating back into the ether.
Whilst the low mantle of bass notes unfurled and swept about our feet, the treble curled and pressed its arching gesture heavenwards until in an ascending shimmering vortex it spun, glittering above us before drifting away on threads of gossamer.
The closing bars of music finally settled back into the silence and at last even the ancient masonry seemed to exhale in deep, warmed satisfaction.
Turning back towards to their healthy, tanned faces, everybody looked radiant, opened, at peace. Hans’ soft eyes were brimming with tears.
We closed the lid of that passionate, good-hearted Yamaha and emerged from the gloom of the shadows to bathe again in the sun’s warmth.

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BBC radio 3

My favourite radio station. .
It has been my companion and greatest music educator since I was a child . Most of my music collection is a result of listening and thinking “must try that one” …. and how many times has there been just the perfect piece at the perfect moment just as I needed something?
I once pulled the car into a layby because screaming children in the back were threatening to distract me to the point of danger. I put the radio on and there was the most wonderful Rachmaninov. We all just calmed down and carried on.
This morning, Radio 3 has just done me the honour of playing my choice of “music for travel” and letting me waffle with Petroc Trelawny about it for 2 minutes! Beethoven naturally. Opus 109 first movement. Beautiful. What a lovely way to start the day!

Thank you so much to you all at the “beeb” for a lifetime of riches.

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The Holocaust. A Mark of Respect.

This is a description of my visit to Auschwitz during my stay in Krakow.

It is not easy to find words to write about the hideous depravity of the Nazis. The double reality of sitting on a coach with the warm sunny autumn countryside outisde and a black and white screen of grotesque cruelty on the inside. As we travelled out of Kracow, a documentary from filmed footage by a Russian soldier helped to prepare us for our visit to the concentration camp.
Once there our impeccable guide took us around with precise, clear descriptions of every aspect of life and death.
‘Hospital‘ (unthinkable experimentation)
‘Starvation to death’
‘The Wall‘ (execution)
‘hanging by arms punishment’
‘Standing cells’
‘selection from the ramp’
The rooms full, behind glass cases, of human hair, spectacles, prostheses, shoes, baby clothes, every day paraphernalia, sorted and recorded with horrible, meticulous efficiency .
The gas chambers and crematoria.
The post mortem records of emaciated babies.
The gaunt heads and shoulders identity photographs displayed on the stalls.
The community of parentless children, damaged forever.
The sheer scale and volume of obscene suffering over the vast, barren site, with its single rail cart and miles of wire fencing

The guides were all extraordinary in their clarity and professionalism. Description,
not judgement being their way to allow the facts to speak for themselves. Many of them have personal connections to a survivor and have dedicated themselves to keeping this memorial to those who were incarcerated here and who perished or survived available to the rest of the world.

At the time I can remember feeling a numbing sense of unreality.
Writing now, I cannot do it justice in words. It has sickened me to try.

Somehow the music of Bach’s cantata, Schlummert ein, comes to my mind in a desperate attempt to pour healing oil onto a living humanitarian wound that defies reason.

Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen
Fallet snaft und selig zu!
Welt, ich bleibe nicht mehr hier,
Hab ich doch kein Teil an dir,
Das der Seele konnte taugen.(konnte o umlout)
Hier mus (german big B) ich das Eland bauen,
Aber dort, dort werd ich schauen
Susen Friede, stille Ruh

Slumber now, you weary eyes,
Close softly and pleasantly!
World, I will not remain here any longer,
I own no part of you
That could matter to my soul.
Here I must build up misery,
But there, I will see
Sweet peace, quiet rest

In an extraordinary performance of bach’s Cantata BWV 82 Lorraine Hunt depicted Simeon, in his readiness to die. She came onto the stage wearing a hospital gown and with medical tubes emerging from her exhausted body, confronting her agony and allowing it to dissolve into “love, release, freedom”

(Lorraine Hunt Lieberson Bach Cantatas BWV 82 and 199 nonesuch )

The above quote is almost meaningless in comparison to its perfect marriage with the cradling of the music as it wraps itself like a healing balm around the listener.


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